Who is Toto Mangudadatu?

Gemma B. Mendoza

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Who is Toto Mangudadatu?
Months after the massacre, Esmael Mangudadatu won the post of Maguindanao governor in the 2010 elections. He held on to this post until 2019 and is currently representative of the 2nd district of Maguindanao.

MANILA, Philippines – Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu was vice mayor of Buluan town in Maguindanao in 2009, when the Maguindanao massacre happened.

The massacre victims included one of his wives, Jenalyn, his sisters Eden and Farinah, and some relatives. Accompanied by members of the local press, they were on their way to Shariff Aguak, the capital of the province, to file a certificate of candidacy on his behalf when a group of about 100 armed men abducted them on November 23, 2009. 

Members of the convoy, 58 in all, ended up dead hours later in what is now seen as the worst election-related violence in Philippine history. The primary accused in the carnage is Mangudadatu’s rival for the gubernatorial post at the time: then Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Months after the massacre, Esmael won the post of Maguindanao governor in the 2010 elections. He held on to this post until 2019. In the 2019 elections, he vied for and won the post of representative of the 2nd district of Maguindanao

Influential clan

Esmael’s family, the Mangudadatus, is an influential clan in the Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces. At one point, they were allies of the Ampatuans who are now accused of killing his kin in the infamous massacre.

Esmael’s father, former Buluan mayor Pua Mangudadatu, was one of 4 key allies of Ampatuan clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr, when the latter was just starting to flex his political muscles.

Esmael is also the nephew of Pakung “Pax” Mangudadatu, who served for years as governor of Sultan Kudarat province and was Sultan Kudarat congressman at the time of the massacre. His cousin, Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu (son of Pax) was incumbent Sultan Kudarat governor at the time the massacre happened. Sultan Kudarat province shares a border with Maguindanao.

A year before the massacre, the Mangudadatus reportedly went to Shariff Aguak to inform the Ampatuans that a member of the clan would vie for the gubernatorial post in 2010. From then on, hostility between the two clans began to fester. 

Political butterfly

Esmael is currently vice chairperson of the House committees on local government, Mindanao affairs, and national defense and security.

He has switched party affiliations a number of times since 2009, usually affiliating himself with the incumbent president’s political party. He ran under Lakas Kampi CMD, the party of then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, during the 2010 elections.

In the 2013 and 2016 elections, he ran under the Liberal Party banner of then-president Benigno Aquino III. He switched parties again during his congressional bid in the 2019 elections, running under the PDP Laban banner, the party that fielded President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 elections.

In 2015, years after the massacre, he admitted having a child with sexy actress Ynez Veneracion. – Rappler.com

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Gemma B. Mendoza

Gemma Mendoza leads Rappler’s multi-pronged efforts to address disinformation in digital media, harnessing big data research, fact-checking, and community workshops. As one of Rappler's pioneers who launched its Facebook page Move.PH in 2011, Gemma initiated strategic projects that connect journalism and data with citizen action, particularly in relation to elections, disasters, and other social concerns.